The Media's Influence on Public Attitudes in Criminal Trials: The Trial of Israeli Ex-President Moshe Katzav as Test Case / השפעת התקשורת על עמדות הציבור במשפטים פליליים: משפטו של נשיא המדינה לשעבר, משה קצב, כמקרה בוחן
The lawsuit brought against the ex-President Moshe Katsav contains several critical characteristics relevant to the study of the media influence on the formation of public opinion when public figures stand trial in criminal cases. The rape and sexual harassment charges, the multiple victims as well ... Ausführliche Beschreibung
|1. Person:||סגל, זאב|
|Weitere Personen:||פוקס, קמיל; בלס, תיקי; Segal, Ze'ev; Fuchs, Camil; Balas, Tiki|
in Kesher / קשר , No. 41 (2011), p. 4-21
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The lawsuit brought against the ex-President Moshe Katsav contains several critical characteristics relevant to the study of the media influence on the formation of public opinion when public figures stand trial in criminal cases. The rape and sexual harassment charges, the multiple victims as well as the office held by the defendant, triggered enormous media coverage in which impartial information was situated alongside inflammatory items aimed to influence the public opinion and possibly also the judicial process. In this paper, we aimed to assess the public opinion in the guilt-innocence question several months before the court rendered their verdict. We also assessed the extent to which those who expressed their opinions are likely to change their mind if the court decision will differ from theirs. The empirical study included three telephone and internet surveys with a total sample size of 1800 respondents. The results were analyzed in the context of known theories and findings related to the effect of court decisions on public opinion. The results were compared to the studies performed in the United States when criminal charges were brought against Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson. The research includes a comparative study of the respondents' opinions on characteristics of the media coverage in Katsav's case against the background of the media coverage in general. The research also addressed two important issues associated with the inter-relationship between the legal process and the media coverage: sub judice and abuse of process. The issues are addressed both in the context of Katsav's case as well as in other cases of renowned criminal cases in recent years in Israel. Among those who expressed an opinion regarding the innocence-guilt questions, 75% think that Katsav should be found guilty of rape and 80% think that he should be found guilty of sexual harassment. In accordance to the structural response hypothesis, we found that on the average, different sub-populations exposed to the same media form different opinions. Thus, among the persons who defined themselves as religious, only 53% think that he should be found guilty of rape versus 80% among those who defined themselves as laics or traditional. A substantial proportion of the sample (33% in the rape and 21% in the sexual harassment questions) defers judgment and expressed no opinion. Only 19% of the respondents think that they are likely to change their minds if the verdict contradicts their prior opinions. 57% think that the court decision will not affect their opinion and 24% responded that they don't know. The comparison with results from other studies and additional findings give credence to the contention that it is premature and unjustified to assert that our results bear evidence to erosion in level of confidence in the Israeli judicial system.